Please, Mickey Mouse, Don't Be a Rat

Will What Happens at Disney Stay at Disney? The Data Knows Too Much About Me

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A Mickey drawing and the Magic Band that learned a lot about Ad Age Deputy Editor Judann Pollack during her recent trip to Disney.
A Mickey drawing and the Magic Band that learned a lot about Ad Age Deputy Editor Judann Pollack during her recent trip to Disney. Credit: Nathan Skid
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It was all so easy. Swipe -- move to the front of the line. Swipe -- open the door. Swipe -- buy a hot dog.

It really did seem like magic at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival last month. With one flick of my wrist, the wonderful world of Disney unfolded before me. My customized pink Magic Band gave me access to my Disney World resort room, the Magic Kingdom and its other parks, its restaurants, concessions and more. While the obvious downside is that you can spend a lot more than you realize (and I did; swipes come cheap) it didn't really register that Disney was shadowing me.

I'm not sure exactly how much data the House of Mouse got from those bands -- the company declined to participate in an interview on the subject -- so I don't know if all my movements were tracked. But the bands revealed enough about me that I hope to hell Mickey Mouse is not a rat.

He knows, for example, how many margaritas I bought at the Laguna Bar -- and maybe even if they were rimmed with salt. I imagine that last tidbit would be valuable information for my health insurer. Crafty mouse.

My Weight Watchers group would also be very interested in the amount of time it took me to get from ride to ride; how many times I hopped on the monorail rather than hoofing it; the size of the burger I got at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café; and how much food and wine I consumed at the Food & Wine festival. Homeland Security might also be willing to pay to find out how much time I spent in different Epcot countries.

Did I stand too close to the fireworks? Did I remove my shoe at Cinderella's castle?

Ah, Mickey, my life is in your white-gloved hands. Because the band is synched with an app that allowed me to reserve times for move-to-the-head-of-the-line fast passes, you know exactly when I arrived at each one. So you know how many times I rode Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. (That, of course, is a fictional example. No adult rides Mr. Toad.)

You probably know what seat I sat in for Country Bear Jamboree (which of course I did not see), that I chickened out at Space Mountain, and exactly what time I had my picture taken with Pluto, if, of course, I had done so.

One might even surmise from the bands how much I slept -- or at least how late I returned to my room from the Laguna bar with a margarita to go.

The so-called Disney "cast members" knew my name and date of birth, thanks to the band. (The bands prompt them to wish people happy birthday or to greet people marking an anniversary, of which I was celebrating neither, all the more reason the margaritas are suspect.) Data at Disney proves it's a small world after all.

But for all its tech, there is one thing Mickey Mouse does not know about me: my last name. Somehow my surname was correct in some places but "Poltack" whenever Disney emailed.